Queensland Ballet presents world-first initiative ’60 dancers: 60 stories’

Edward Pope from '60 dancers: 60 stories'.
Edward Pope from '60 dancers: 60 stories'.

Created in response to these extraordinary times, Queensland Ballet has premiered a new body of work, 60 dancers: 60 stories.

In its 60th year, Queensland Ballet’s 60 talented artists have created 60 new works based on the theme of LOVE to engage and inspire with this magical art form. 

Queensland Ballet (QB) Artistic Director Li Cunxin said the works were born out of the desire to express the company’s love and gratitude to its supporters and audience, and a wish by the dancers to show their appreciation for all the support and encouragement they have received during this difficult time.

“Each of these new pieces have been conceptualised, choreographed, performed and filmed by our dancers to create a body of works that is truly inspiring, imaginative, authentic and original,” he said. “While the world has changed in ways that we couldn’t imagine, there is one thing we can be sure of – now more than ever – art must prevail.”

60 dancers: 60 stories will unveil two videos daily on QB’s social channels during the month of June. Project Coordinator and QB Ballet Master Matthew Lawrence said it is a world first. “A project of this scale, 60 new works, with multiple collaborations, both local and international, has never been attempted before to this scale in a dance company,” he said. “It is an explosion of creativity, based around our push to survive as an organisation, intact, and connect with our audiences.”

Lawrence continued, “60 dancers: 60 stories, for me, is a narrative of struggle, determination and success against the odds, evocative of the Queensland spirit! Of dancers creating wonderful and engaging pieces, from their confined homes, or outdoor environments, with no budget and limited resources at their disposal. Most dancers, prior to this project, had never choreographed or filmed dance before, and their accomplishment is testament to the wonderful musical, choreographic and editing mentors, who supported the dancers in producing some outstanding works of art.”

Unique to the project is the variety of locations where dancers were creating and collaborating, from interstate, across the Tasman and worldwide. Victor Estevez worked with his family in Cuba, who played and recorded the music especially for his piece. Lucy Green and Samuel Packer worked with UK-based, Australian-born composer Peter Wilson, while Paige Rochester and Mali Comlekci used a work by young Australian composer George Bokaris. There are also original compositions by QB’s music team and dancers.

When COVID-19 hit, the company decided it was best to halt all partner work except for couples within the company. Taking advantage of this loophole, Principal Artist Estevez and Senior Soloist Mia Heathcote worked together to create a work set to “Ave Maria”.

Heathcote said she’d never considered choreography before but now considers it something she’d like to develop.“It isn’t always easy or straight forward to be able to express what you want to say through movement, especially if you are working as a team. Everyone thinks and expresses so differently, but that was also the beauty of this process, it pushed us out of our comfort zone and made us work and think with a different perspective than what we are used to,” Heathcote said of her work with Estevez.

She added, “The best thing to come out of this process was the sense of achievement and the soul meaning the piece had. It meant a lot to us to create something having in mind the closest people in our hearts.”

When mainstage performances were cancelled due to social distancing restrictions, QB made a promise to its supporters, to Keep the Magic Alive, and find new ways to inspire and entertain every day – with the company’s stories, content and community programs. 

From that promise, a campaign was born and with it a pledge by the company to look after its dancers and staff during the downturn. To support QB’s efforts, an anonymous donor has offered to quadruple donations made during the month of June.

“We hope to reach our target of a million dollars before 30 June this year,” Cunxin said. “We think it is achievable with our match donor’s generous offer. Just think, $25 donation from the public equates to $100, which the Queensland Ballet can use to Keep the Magic Alive in 2020, and plan for a strong return in 2021.”

Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible and will go directly to keeping dancers and staff teams employed.

For more information or to donate, visit keepthemagicalive.com.au.

To view, visit Queensland Ballet’s 60 dancers: 60 stories, head to the company’s Facebook and Instagram channels or  www.queenslandballet.com.au/60-dancers-60-stories.

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